détente, relaxation of tensions between nations, applied particularly to a period of improved relations between the United States and Soviet Union in the 1960s and 70s that resulted as the hostilities of the cold war diminished. Détente reached its height in such agreements as the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (1968), Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I, 1972; see disarmament, nuclear), and the Helsinki Accords (1975; see Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe). After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (1979; see also Afghanistan War), relations between the two superpowers worsened. The crisis in Poland that resulted from the crackdown on Solidarity, an escalation of the arms race, and U.S. President Ronald Reagan's strong anti-Soviet stance brought an end to détente in the early 1980s.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Political Science: Terms and Concepts